Friday, August 22, 2014

Communicate change before people cut ties with their job

Readiness to change is one of the preconditions for a successful change management that should transform rapidly changing conditions into new opportunities. It is absolutely essential that all changes in direction, strategy and orientation are communicated to all employees timely, open and honest.

However, the reason that change projects cannot be implemented as planned or even fail is often to be found already at the top level of a company: lack of adequate top-down information, less involvement of middle and lower management and no will to establish a dialogue with employees involved. But experience tells us that employees are sensitive to feel early when something is in the air. Rumours and uncertainty are growing and the willingness to actively participate in upcoming changes declines. More and more people will mentally cut their ties with the job already before they learn more about the company's intentions.

A leading role for Human Resources and Corporate Communications

In order to prevent such loss of emotional ties to the company's operations, Human Resources and Corporate Communications - together with the top management - need to pick up a leading role in the change management process and to run an open and timely information early enough, namely starting before the realignment becomes reality. A targeted integration of all people involved is a must for a successful change management. However, good communication is not done only with a written announcement, a glossy presentation or a nice brochure. It is not print that communicates the change but the managers. They all need to be provided with the necessary training, tools and materials in order to start a fruitful face-to-face dialogue with their staff and act as change agents. In doing so, change is discussed, understood, and the information is not diluted through hierarchical levels and differently interpreted. 

Plain text instead of empty words 

Cost reductions, restructuring projects and job redundancies include unpleasant messages by nature. Nevertheless, the reasons for change and its impact have to be explained in plain language. Even if messages may seem harsh and painful - they need to be clearly communicated and not trivialized by blurry statements. A successful change management lets the employees actively participate in the change. The more knowledge and know-how they can contribute to the process the greater the readiness to change will be. Motivation and engagement will increase which in turn fosters confidence and stability. But do not forget: "It is always easier to talk about change than to make it." (Alvin Toffler, US futurist).

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